Helping young Pacific artists find their voice Helping young Pacific artists find their voice CREDIT: Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Helping Young Pacific Artists Find Their Voice

Monday 10 July 2017, 9:53AM
By Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology


Talented Pacific artists Siliga Setoga and Claudia Jowitt have been mentoring a group of high school students at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, helping them to develop their voice through Pacific art. 

Siliga and Claudia are part of the ‘Fresh Horizons’ workshops run by the Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation dedicated to supporting and developing Pacific artists. These workshops have multiple purposes: they give young people access to well-known artists, a taste of tertiary life and the support and encouragement to develop their own artistic practice.

This is Siliga’s fourth Fresh Horizons workshop and he says he loves being part of the process where young people stop worrying about critique and focus on telling their personal stories through art.

“We take them through a brain-storming session that helps them identify the things that are most important to them. Then we help them interpret this into forms, shapes and lines which we paint onto tapa. We abstract and refine an idea so it can become a pattern. It may look simple, but it means so much.”

Claudia says it’s good to give young people – and their parents – an insight into the many career possibilities that exist within the art world.

“The art scene is not one-dimensional,” she says. “There are careers in writing, curating, and arts administration and even if they don’t go on to study art, the critical creative thinking skills they are gaining can be applied to lots of other things.”

It takes a lot of people to bring a workshop like this together: from the artists to the administrators, to the tertiary providers that partner with Tautai. This year Tautai brought Bachelor of Creative Industries graduate, Juanita-Louisa Kaora (J-Lo) on board to help with recruitment.

“I’ve had the chance to be mentored by Tautai and now I go into the schools and create relationships with kids who might benefit from these workshops,” J-Lo says. “They have so many decisions and choices to make over the next few years so it’s good to give them an idea of what’s out there.”

“This is like a little bridge between secondary school and tertiary,” adds Claudia. “We are showing them it’s a good environment and it’s different from the art they study in high school which is often about adhering to standards and models. Here we are using masi (tapa cloth) but letting the kids put their own contemporary spin on it.”

The resulting work has been a colourful, vibrant collection of original tapas which are displayed at Toi Ohomai. Parents are then invited to come in and view the work created by their children during the three day workshop.

Bachelor of Creative Industries tutor and artist, Darcell Apelu, who is also part of the Tautai collective, says this is the parents’ opportunity to view the works and ask questions about a career pathway into the arts.

“Studying art may not seem like a good option to some parents,” she says. “We want to address that and show them how viable a career in the arts is.”

“It used to be that you ‘go to Uni and get a career’ but it’s not that clear cut anymore. Jobs are changing and this generation is going to be the creators of those jobs. With the [Bachelor of Creative Industries] degree, we’ve added that entrepreneurial slant so students can learn to market themselves and their art.”

While some of these students may have a few years before they take on tertiary study, the confidence gained through the process of visual story-telling will be invaluable.

As Siliga says, “At the end of the day, whatever path they decide to follow they can use this. We show them that their art doesn’t have to be interpreted by anyone but themselves so whatever mark that they put down is their mark. As long as it means something to them, that’s our goal.”

  For more information about Toi Ohomai, visit our website.